The Science of Saying Hello to Your Neighbor

As a recent college graduate with a degree in marketing, I have spent a little over 4 years learning about topics like market share, understanding the differences in traditional and digital marketing, how to seek the appropriate target market while identifying the characteristics of these audiences, and so many more big and weird words that make any person I talk to dizzy with confusion and disinterest (my concentration was social media, in case you cared.) While I have had plenty of practice presenting big projects and giving elevator pitches, the thought of speaking one-on-one often comes as an exhausting task.

Many people do not see me as an introvert by any means. I can be full of life, energetic in conversation, and quick to crack a joke with people that barely know me.

But there is one that place that I struggle with greatly: Saying hello to my neighbor.

As I write this post, conversations come to mind where communication felt forced and empty.

For many people, extroversion is a gift and they use their talent as great leaders, open to any opportunity for socializing. There is great excitement in meeting new people, hearing their interests, and then building on that foundation in their newly found relationship. But for others who seem to lean towards introversion, this is a difficult, sometimes impossible task that is seen as an unbearable burden.  That isn’t to say that people disinterest them, but that conversation often comes off as awkward and energy consuming. As I write this post, conversations come to mind (many of which have happened over the last few months) where communication felt forced and empty. It is easy to hide behind detached questions (like the infamous “how about this weather?”) and for many, this is the end result of trying to be like their extroverted peers.

With this impossible task, I come to find myself trying to identify as an introverted extrovert. That might not be true, but I am definitely seeking to constantly be intentional in the conversations that take place daily. During my first semester of college, I decided that this was the label that I intend to give myself. I would go out of my way to be around strangers. I would speak to people that I passed in the hallway, even saying a simple “hello” or “excuse me” just to get comfortable with new conversations. It wasn’t enough though.

The key is simple: Listen. Actually hear  what your neighbor is saying.

I now set myself up to “fail” as an extrovert, sitting in a local coffee shop at a community table where anyone has a chance to create conversation. This has quickly become a place of comfort over the year, where I come anticipating conversation and feel weird when I don’t get any. The old routine of speaking to people has created a comfort in speaking to my neighbors at this table. It’s no longer strange and a few simple questions helps ease the opportunity for awkwardness to sneak in. The key is simple: Listen. Actually hear what your neighbor is saying. When you spend time listening to what they are trying to tell you instead of forming your own responses to empty questions, you will be able to respond appropriately, and hey, you might even find out something about that person! 

I encourage you, if you are in the same shoes as me, to do the same. Take the time to learn about the person in front of you. hear what they have to say, and respond from that before trying to form some empty response based on the fake conversation being played in your head. They could easily be your next best friend, life partner, or adventure pal, but mostly, they are your neighbor. Saying “hello!” is only the first step to something greater, and it wasn’t even as hard as you thought it would be!

Don’t know what your personality is or want to learn more about yours? Check out this free Myers Briggs Personality Test!

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